That couldn’t have been the famously combative New Jersey governor delivering such a vague, unfocused, gloves-on keynote address. On paper, Christie looked like the perfect firebrand to rouse the assembled GOP legions with a battle cry for the ages. But last night he delivered . . . what? Let's see, there was the admonition that at some unspecified junctures in life, it is necessary to say no, even if at the cost of losing popularity. There was the opinion, not universally shared, that respect is greater than love. There was the declaration that our leaders need to make hard choices — but no hint of what those choices might be.

Oh, and there was an extended advertisement for Chris Christie as a possible Republican presidential nominee in 2016. At least, that’s what I assumed I was hearing.

It took something like 16 minutes for Christie to get around to mentioning the name of the 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney. It took no time, however, for him to begin praising his own record in New Jersey. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought a keynote speaker was supposed to build up his party’s standard-bearer and tear down the opponent. But there wasn’t even much Obama-bashing in Christie’s speech. I kept waiting for the governor to get to the point, but there didn’t seem to be one.

He spoke with a certain brio and his customary volume. But the speech had all the style of a barnburner and none of the substance. If this really was Christie's audition for 2016, then last night's real winner was Marco Rubio.